Women's gear, up first
I'm looking for a down jacket I can use for trekking and mountaineering. I would like a jacket that's super warm, packable, and has a nice, feminine, non-Michelin Man fit. Joan San Diego, California
Down jackets are my downfall. I can't get enough of their puffy security, likely fallout from my days of walking to school in the dead of winter in Duluth, Minnesota. It may be early summer, but these brand-new-for-fall-09 jackets will almost make you want the snow to start flying early. (Note: Most will be available and in stores by September.) One of the best options is GoLite's Roan Plateau 800 Jacket ($275, golite.com). Be forewarned: Once you put it on, you're never going to want to take it off. With cozy stretch knit cuff liners, a fleece collar, a roomy hood, and a long torso, the Roan feels like a wearable sleeping bag. The one downside: The boxy cut isn't as feminine as the others.
A sleek, stylish option is Powderhorn's Powdersmoke ($495; powderhornworld.com) down jacket. Made out of a special shiny ceramic yarn, the Powdersmoke allows you to store and return heat, which helps evaporate moisture off the body, a cool feature for a sometimes sweat-inducing down jacket. With a curvy, form fit that comes in beautiful rich colors like red and crocus, you can work hard in this all day, then wear it to the bar après climb.
Finally, Helly Hansen's Zera Down Jacket ($250, hellyhansen.com) is the ultimate go everywhere down piece. The thin, ultralight 90/10 down jacket has a feminine fit, can be worn as a layering piece or as an outer jacket, and has plenty of comfort bells and whistles (except for a hood). The low-volume jacket was specifically designed to stow away in a backpack.